b.09 Jan 1751/52 Rhinebeck (town), Dutchess, New York, United States
d.14 Apr 1818 Rhinebeck (town), Dutchess, New York, United States
m. 27 Apr 1737
m. Bef 1775
Facts and Events
George Ring (1752 - 1818) was a farmer and tanner at Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York. Records from his lifetime use two different versions of his given name. Church records frequently use the German spelling (Georg, without the second "e"), while public records, newspapers, and family gravestones use the English spelling (George, with the second "e"). These variations reflect a gradual decline in use of the German language at Rhinebeck, a trend that accelerated after the American Revolution, when the children and grandchildren of Palatine immigrants suddenly had access to much greater opportunities in business and politics. The life stories of George and his younger brother Johannes seem to embody these changes and resulting possibilities for advancement.
Early Years, 1752-1774
George was baptized at Rhinebeck on 25 or 26 January 1752, there being a disagreement between his mother's Bible and church records. Among the Palatine Germans at Rhinebeck, children were usually named for a family member who also served as a sponsor at the baptism. George was apparently named for his maternal grandfather George Deter, but his baptism sponsors were family friends, George Adam Zufeld and his wife Catharina Reisdorph. This is the only recorded event from his childhood years.
Marriage and Family, 1775-1788
When the American Revolution began in April 1775, George was newly wed. His marriage to Anna Maria Eckert is not mentioned in local church records, but the wedding almost certainly took place that spring. With his father and brothers, George took a loyalist position at the start of the war, refusing to sign the Articles of Association at Rhinebeck in June or July 1775. Afterwards, George seems to have remained neutral. While his father Christopher was watched by the local committee of safety as a loyalist, and his brother Johannes became an active patriot, George's name is never mentioned in the records of these local committees or militias.
Records at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Peter the Apostle document the baptisms of ten children in this family between 1776 and 1797. All but one child survived to adulthood. George and Anna Maria were also confirmed at St. Peter's in 1785 and joined the communion list in 1788. During that same time, Christopher died and George inherited his father's house and farm.
Farm and Tannery, 1789-1817
An 1802 map of the Dutchess County turnpike road from Salisbury to Radcliff's Ferry shows the house of George Ring on the north side of the Landsman Kill, where the stream makes a sharp curve near the manor homes of Robert Sands and Robert Schuyler. Today this site is located north of Route 308 between New York 9G and Pilgrim's Progress Road (see Google Maps). In comparison to the great houses of Sands and Schuyler, the Ring house was modest, probably a one-and-a-half or two story stone building. If the house shown in 1802 is the same one George occupied in 1798, it must have been isolated, since town records of that year describe a "wasteland" between the great houses and the Ring home. But according to a map of that year it was also near the crossroads where the Schuyler family sponsored a general store and not too far from the Old Stone Church by horse and carriage.
An 1850 map of Dutchess County shows a tannery located on the opposite bank of the Landsman Kill from the old George Ring house (see Google Maps for the present location). The tannery is one of two properties mentioned in George Ring's will. The Ring family tannery was probably founded by George's father Christopher and then passed down to George along with the farm.
During Christopher's lifetime, most tanneries were small businesses that produced leather for local farmers who wanted to make shoes or harnesses for their own families. By the time George inherited the tannery, New York City merchants had started to work with rural tanners to produce leather on a larger scale. Tanners could purchase hides and currying oils from the merchants on a commission basis. Once the tanning process was completed, the leather merchants would work with tanners to sell the finished leather. The leather trade was based in a section of the city called the Swamp along Jacob, Gold, Ferry, Spruce, and Frankfort streets, where two early pioneers were Comfort and Joseph Sands, brothers of the Rhinebeck proprietor Robert Sands. By 1809, the merchant Jacob Lorillard started to contract with tanners to produce leather at fixed rates, relieving the tanner of financial risk.
George almost certainly did business with leather merchants like the Sands brothers and Lorillard, allowing him to build a thriving business that made him a relatively wealthy man. Except for a newspaper notice of 1817 that names Jacob Lorillard as agent in the sale of property by George's son John G. Ring, there is no direct record of these business relationships, but George clearly ran the tannery on the larger scale that was common among tanners who worked with merchants of the Swamp. One measure of his success can be found at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Peter the Apostle, where George and his brother Johannes were among the top donors to subscription lists for the minister in 1799 and 1815.
Tanners like George used a four-stage process that required at least two years to produce finished leather. First, the tanner cleaned the raw hides and soaked them in vats containing a lime-and-water solution. Next he scraped the hides with a beaming knife and whetstone to smooth the surface. After washing the hides again, the tanner put them in wooden vats or pits, covering them with layers of oak bark and water for 12-18 months. Finally, the tanner dried the hides in special lofts where they pounded them with mallets to make them flexible, or rubbed them with oils and stones to make the finer varieties of soft and supple leather.
This process allowed the tanner free time to do farm work or practice another trade, but it also tied up his capital for extended periods, making him vulnerable to financial risk and the loss of credit needed to keep operations running. This part of a tanner's life can be glimpsed in a brief notice that appeared in newspapers at Rhinebeck, Poughkeepsie, and New York City in April 1811 -- the published apology of George's nephew David P. Traver, stating that he "never had any foundation for asserting that the said George Ring was Insolvent or likely to become so." The apology demonstrates how eager George was to protect his financial reputation up and down the Hudson.
Death and Legacy, 1818
George died of dropsy at Rhinebeck on 14 April 1818. His will was proved the following month. Anna Maria survived her husband by 19 years. After George died, she continued to live in the family home with her sons Peter, Philip, William, and Conrad. George and Anna Maria are buried in the St. Peter's Lutheran Church cemetery.
All but one of the surviving children eventually left Rhinebeck. George G. Ring and David A. Ring left early in the nineteenth century, with David settling at Charleston, South Carolina. Lewis moved to Hyde Park, where he established himself as a successful physician. Peter and Philip inherited their father's farm and tannery, but competition from upstate tanneries made it increasingly unprofitable and both men moved upstate before 1850. Anna Maria and her husband moved to New York City about 1824. Youngest son Conrad joined his brother David at Charleston in the 1840s.